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Old 10-10-2013, 05:28 AM   #21
Hans Rancke-Madsen
 
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Default Re: What makes a good villain?

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Originally Posted by Agemegos View Post
They rescued the princess, brought her home, and found the king furiously angry.
Everything else you write I get, but there seems to be something you forgot to mention here. Why would the King be angry?


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Old 10-10-2013, 06:17 AM   #22
Agemegos
 
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Default Re: What makes a good villain?

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Originally Posted by Hans Rancke-Madsen View Post
Everything else you write I get, but there seems to be something you forgot to mention here. Why would the King be angry?
The characters and players were mystified too. I had expected the arc plot for the campaign to be finding the solution to that mystery, but they derailed that be killing a crucial NPC in the first adventure, and then took me on a ride when one player decided that his character had fallen in love with the princess.

The reason was that the kidnapping was a set-up. The PCs were not who was supposed to complete that quest and get the prize.

The king had a bastard son whom he wanted to make his successor, and tried to contrive an incestuous marriage between his legitimate daughter and his bastard son. But for their marriage to be equal and not morganatic the son needed to be a noble. The king needed a pretext on which to give a title and estate to the fatherless son of a palace slave, without raising suspicions. So he hired some foreign pirates to kidnap his daughter (through a cut-out), then manipulated the parliament into passing a blank act of ennoblement for whomsoever should rescue her, then (through another cut-out) he equipped his secret bastard with a magical sailboat, a few other bits an pieces, and a magical princess-seeking compass.

My plan was that the PCs (one of whom was a magician) should beat the bastard to the rescue, and then recognise him in a later adventure when the king tried again. Instead they killed him in the first adventure.

The king was intensely but passingly angry when the PCs spoiled his secret scheme. He formed a bitter enmity later, when he heard that they had killed his son. That was what motivated his spite through the rest of the campaign, though he could never tell anyone. I've forgotten now how the players eventually worked it out.
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Old 10-10-2013, 08:37 AM   #23
whswhs
 
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Default Re: What makes a good villain?

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Originally Posted by Asta Kask View Post
Oh, yes. Both are good for a campaign, although you could have a memorable campaign without a recurring villain.
Well, let me think.

In Zimiamvia, the principal villain of the storyline actually came up repeatedly: The king's bastard son by his long-established mistress. Ludovico grew up with a sense of his own privileges and a deep resentment of not having a claim to the throne. Early on he was largely a figure of fun, culminating in the scene where he serenaded Cassandra, one of the PCs, from outside her bedroom, and then climbed the balcony and came in, only to first have a chamberpot thrown at him and then be picked up bodily by Cassandra's bodyguard and hurled out the window, breaking his arm when he landed. (Of course they both said, "I had no idea it was the Prince!") Later on, when the king was away on an invasion of Akkama, he responded to a report of the Akkamite invention of rockets by proclaiming the king dead and himself Regent—and had to be captured and then executed by the royal armies.

One of the villains, so to speak, in Manse was The Lady, head of the House of Truth. She had taken a younger man, Jove, one of the PCs, as her lover, and at first failed to notice that Jove was attracted to her daughter Salvadora and that Salvadora felt the same about Jove; in fact she was trying to arrange Salvadora's marriage to someone who would be a credit to the House of Truth when Salvadora succeeded her. Then when Jove proclaimed his changed feelings she banished him from the House, hoping to cast him out of the aristocracy at the same time, only to have him adopted into the House of Light at the instigation of its head, Wresse, another of the PCs. She never did face any physical consequences, but found herself increasingly isolated by her obvious spite toward Jove and her putting it ahead of the welfare of the Manse (as Jove was the commander of its guard, and a good one).

I've already written about the Black Scorpion.

I confronted the British secret agent supers in Gods and Monsters with a Chinese band with elementally themed powers, led by the sinister Dr. Wong Feihong, who had used his mastery of alchemy and Chinese medicine to take one of Ch'in Shih Huang-Ti's terracotta soldiers to a hidden nexus where it could be animated, in the process gaining elemental powers for himself and his allies also. (I was thinking about the Chinese elements long before I wrote the GURPS supplement!) These were of course an analog for the Fantastic Four, right up to the flare rocket that put the character for "FIVE" into the sky above Hong Kong.

Possibly the most memorable villain in Boca del Infierno, my 18th century Buffyverse campaign, was Noctambule, a millennia-old sorceror who had been preserving the most beautiful women in history as wax images. Naturally, he tried to add the Slayer to his collection. She ended up turning him over to his own collection, who used his own waxwork process on him.

I think I'd say three things about my campaigns:

* A lot of the action isn't villain-driven.
* Often the thing that's memorable about a villain is a striking modus operandi.
* The villains who emerge as personalities are often the more soap operatic villains, whose villainy manifests in social schemes and maneuvers. Very often they can't be assailed directly because they have some measure of legitimacy; what's necessary is to create a situation where law or custom is on the PCs' side.

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Old 10-10-2013, 08:44 AM   #24
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Default Re: What makes a good villain?

The villains that will terrify a PC most,in my opinion, are the ones who act like well-run PCs. That is, they act with intelligence and they use teamwork. My In Nomine players still talk about the capture team from the Demon Prince of Lust who staged a well-thought-out abduction of a Bright ... even when the Bright managed to escape their custody, they'd managed to set up the situation so that she was running from both her captors and her would-be rescuers.
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Old 10-10-2013, 09:17 AM   #25
The Colonel
 
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Default Re: What makes a good villain?

Also, villains who are not evil - the values dissonance is great when your PCs realise that their enemies are not strictly "bad guys".
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Old 10-10-2013, 10:03 AM   #26
robkelk
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Default Re: What makes a good villain?

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Originally Posted by Irish Wolf View Post
A good, memorable villain never thinks of himself as a "bad guy". He might be doing bad things, but it's always for some higher goal (Magneto in Marvel Comics, for instance, fears that the Holocaust will repeat itself, this time against mutants, unless the rest of humanity can be controlled first).
Expanding on that: http://drunkardswalkforums.yuku.com/topic/10111

A good villain is also in charge - he's the one using (and using up) the other antagonists... and possibly using the protagonists, as well. Think Moriarity, not Moran.
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Old 10-10-2013, 10:20 AM   #27
whswhs
 
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Default Re: What makes a good villain?

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A good villain is also in charge - he's the one using (and using up) the other antagonists... and possibly using the protagonists, as well. Think Moriarity, not Moran.
I don't entirely agree with that. A character who comes into contact with the PCs directly may also make a strong, dramatic impression. They may even survive the encounter and come back later with a different sponsor.

Bill Stoddard
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Old 10-10-2013, 10:25 AM   #28
The Colonel
 
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Default Re: What makes a good villain?

How about a villain the PCs make for themselves? Perhaps a guy they either annoy or - better yet - rescue in an early adventure?
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Old 10-10-2013, 11:47 AM   #29
David Johnston2
 
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Default Re: What makes a good villain?

Incidentally I don't really accept that a good villain has to think he's a hero. Hans Gruber doesn't think he's a hero. He's a guy who used to think that way, but is now cynical and has concluded that it's time to forget about changing the world and just get rich. Still a pretty good villain. It is true that people who theatrically announce that they are evil can't be taken seriously. But then neither can people who theatrically announce that they are good. Those are assessments which are only not laughable when they are made by everyone other than the one being evaluated.
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Old 10-10-2013, 11:54 AM   #30
mehrkat
 
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Default Re: What makes a good villain?

A villain is essentially a foil for the PC's action. A villain becomes memorable by how they interact with the PC. I'm not a gigantic fan of reoccurring villains. That doesn't mean that a villain can't have a slowly discovered plan that builds (admittedly I use this all the time) nor does it mean that a villain doesn't occasionally escape a couple of times due to planning or die rolls.

I have a few special scenes and villains involved.
1. Bessie the Cow. -- We had powerful warriors traveling in a spaceship looking for a safe place to store their spaceship and asked only one thing by the owner of the barn before leaving the ship in the barn. Please don't frighten my cow. At the end of that little scene they had slunk away in defeat and promised to never again try to hide in a barn.
2. Beliz. A World of Darkness Vampires game. A demon had bespelled them in a truly horrific way and was making them hunt the world for the Book of Creation. They were only able to survive due to the help of Lucifier who for reasons of his own supported them in their efforts to succeed. The hatred they felt for Beliz and the fear the felt at Lucifer being their only hope was beautiful to behold.
3. The Demon. A naked demon whose enjoyment of battle was mighty and obvious to behold described with glee. He mostly casually ignored the more squishy members of the party to fight the incredible warriors. But when he would have a moment in the crazed battle he would slash out at one of the squishies and leave them bleeding. One of the squishies got his attention by removing his joy in battle. He used all of his battle powerress and focused on her for a moment and slashed her open from leg to neck. She was saved only by a divine miracle.
4. The Demonlich. A plotting demongod reduced to a skull who could communicate with his minions and used them to gather the Cauldron (inspired by the Black Cauldron)
5. Lightfingers -- a half goblin thief with trap making abilities that always included the most memorable and painful ways to make the traps. To stop them from chasing them a spring loaded hook in the floor designed to shoot through your foot and pull tight. When that shot through one of the pc's foot they had to choose whether to help him out (when they were in a hurry or chase him). They hated that little thief so much.
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